London knife crime numbers fall dramatically amid coronavirus lockdown

20 April 2020, 15:58

Knife crime in London has fallen by more than a quarter since January
Knife crime in London has fallen by more than a quarter since January . Picture: PA
Matthew Thompson

By Matthew Thompson

The coronavirus lockdown has caused knife crime in London to fall dramatically, according to figures just published by the Metropolitan Police.

Crime is down across the board since the start of the year, with a drop of 14%, but knife crime has seen one of the biggest drops, falling by more than a quarter since January.

Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave said: “It is almost certainly the case that the monthly reductions in other crime types are due to the unprecedented situation we are currently in, with a reduced street population and people staying in their homes.”

Other crimes that have seen notable falls include residential burglary, which has fallen by 27% since January, and rape, which has fallen by 23%.

The official figures confirm what organisations on the front line of London’s gang and knife crime crisis have been saying for a number of weeks. Namely, that the lockdown has effectively suspended many of the rivalries that are driving much of London’s violence.

Listen & subscribe: Global Player | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify

Sheldon Thomas, the founder and Chief Executive of charity Gangsline, said: “Gangsline has been speaking with many gang members from London and other major cities like Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham who have said they’ve put their ‘ops’ on hold, they’re not ‘riding out’.

“And even though some may look at this as a good thing, once the lockdown is over, they’ve said things will go back to normal. In other words, there’ll be a surge in gang violence, or a surge in knife crime.

“Which begs the question, once the lockdown is over, will we have the resources to deal with what I believe will be a real surge in gang violence?”

Charities also report that there has been a considerable fall in so-called “county lines” activity, when city gangs force children to go and sell their drugs in more rural areas.

But we must be under no illusions. This is most likely to be an artificial fall in the rate of crime. It is created almost exclusively by the extraordinary lockdown measures.

The Met’s crime figures for the whole financial year 2019/20 show that, even with the sharp drop since January, there has still been a slight rise overall in knife crime in the last year, of 5%.

As we all hope and expect that the economy will bounce back quickly after the coronavirus crisis, the risk is that crime, and the grim death toll that accompanies it, will do the same.